Following on from this Monday’s post on getting back into practice after a wee break, I thought I’d share an outline of a 30 minute practice session that I might typically run through when coming back after a break. I don’t normally really watch the clock whilst practicing, but I’ve provided a bit of a time break down as a guide for that 30 minute session – potentially helpful for those of you who are somewhat time restricted. Also, I’m not saying this is the way to go about your practice, and I’d certainly vary this depending on what I was working on or working towards. Nonetheless I thought it may be useful to share as a point of reference.
Before you get stuck into your practice there are a couple of things you need to do:
* Get your nails filed, buffed and ready to make a beautiful tone. If you’ve not played in a few days this is something you definitely need to do.
* Get your “stuff” sorted out and ready – sheet music sorted out, guitar rest or foot stool in position,guitar tuned up.
And now you’re ready for practice time. Here goes!
* Gentle warm-up with open string reflex return exercises, focussing on your sound and the movement required to make that sound – 2 minutes
* Then get things moving a little more with some scales and arpeggios, various right hand fingerings – 3 minutes
* Technical exercises – I’ll often pick some relatively gentle technical exercises if I’ve not played for a few days. I might typically pick the range of exercises for Grade 4, 5 or 6, for example, in the AMEB Technical Workbook – 5 minutes
* Take the latest piece you’ve been working from and give it a gentle, 2/3 speed play through from the top. Note where the stumbling blocks or trickier elements are as you play through – 5 to 10 minutes
* Pick one of those stumbling blocks and really think about and examine what it is that’s causing the stumbling block or trickiness. It may not necessarily always be all that obvious. Is it a left hand movement issue? Is the right hand fingering secure? Is it a lack of clarity in the melodic line? Is it a lack of understanding and clarity in the harmony? Really stick with this one issue and see if you can (a) puzzle out what’s going on (you may need some guidance from your teacher) and (b) stick with it until you can get things working at say half speed – 10 – 15 minutes If you get this one stumbling block sorted within a couple of minutes or so you can always then move onto the next one!
You can then think of your next practice session as being a continuation of this process, not a fresh start as it were. Test out where those stumbling blocks (or hopefully ex stumbling blocks) are at a slower tempo than your desired, work on them again if necessary. Then pick out the next one to work on and so on and so forth each practice session.
You’ll find that the 30 minutes goes by pretty quickly, but undertaking your practice in this way or in a similar fashion – focusing on your sound, and focusing on the things that you really need to practice, rather than just running through pieces, will really pay dividends in your playing.